Carving wooden spoons: how to start and what you need (basics)

Carving is a big part of Bushcraft. And what is better than self-carved spoons? Here I show you in detail how it works and what you need.

from Martin Gebhardt | Bushcraft | reading time 5 Min
Updated on 20 September 2023 73.335 views 97% found this guide helpful
Carving wooden spoons: how to start and what you need (basics)

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • To carve a wooden spoon, you need a carving knife and a peeling knife. A good carving knife is handy and has a small, narrow tip to achieve beautiful curves and notches.
  • An axe or a compact axe is essential for rough processing your workpiece and creating a blank.
  • Soft woods such as lime wood, maple wood, stone pine wood, chestnut wood or poplar wood are particularly suitable for carving, especially for beginners.
  • Hard woods such as larch wood, birchwood, oak wood, ash wood, elm wood, olive wood, pear wood or almond wood are more challenging to carve, but also suitable.
  • A wooden block serves as a support on which the axe can strike without damaging the blade.
  • Sandpaper is needed to smooth the wood texture of your carvings.
  • After your spoon or carving piece is finished, you need to oil it well to protect it from moisture. Olive oil from the supermarket is suitable if you want to prepare food with the spoons.

Bushcraft is craftsmanship.

And carving is part of the craft.

Since you also cook in the wilderness, spoons are useful tools.

And what is better than self-carved spoons?

Today I will show you everything you need to start carving.

The Knives

You only need two types of knives at the beginning:

  • Carving knife
  • Peeling knife

You can recognize a good carving knife by its handiness. Additionally, you need a special carving knife because its tip is small and narrow.

As a result, it is possible to achieve great curves and notches. You won't be able to do this with a large knife.

If you want to carve spoons and bowls, you require a peeling knife.

Below the image you can see the carving knife and the peeling knife:

Basic Carving Knife Set
Basic Carving Knife Set

But be careful: with peeling knives there are models where both sides are sharpened.

I recommend a peeling knife with only one sharp side. Here you can apply pressure with your thumb on one side, which is often necessary.

The beginner set from ETEPON is a good start. The price-performance ratio for both knives is excellent. Take a look at the reviews on Amazon - the knives speak for themselves.

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ETEPON Schnitzmesser,Werkzeug Kerbschnitzmesser Schälmesser mit Messer Hülse + Haken Messer, Holzschnitzerei Kit für Löffel Schüssel Cup Kuksa Holzbearbeitung ET013

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If you are looking for more quality, I recommend the Frost® knives. They may be pricier, but they are more durable and incredibly sharp.

The Axe for the Blank

First, you need to roughly process your workpiece to create a blank.

You're better off using a hatchet or a compact axe (Read here to find out the differences). This way, you'll get rid of unnecessary wood quickly.

Therefore, a hatchet or an axe is indispensable.

In the picture is a blank that was shaped with an axe.

Spoon blank made with axe
Spoon blank made with axe

It is much more exhausting when you don't have an axe and have to remove unnecessary wood with a knife.

For this, a compact and small axe is recommended.

As demonstrated by the image below, I use the Fiskars X7 axe. It is a versatile tool that can also be used for carving.

I have described the axe in more detail in my other article "The 3 Best Survival Axes". Check it out if you are looking for a good axe for bushcraft and survival.

Axe for cutting and carving wood
Axe for cutting and carving wood

The Fiskars X7 is approximately 36 cm long. For comparison: the forearm of an adult is also about this long.

For woodworking and carving, I do not recommend using a longer axe. A longer and larger axe is too heavy for continuous use.

So that I can also quickly and effectively work on smaller pieces of wood, I also ordered the Fiskars X5. It is only 23 cm long and good for woodworking. In addition, there is the balanced price-performance ratio.

Fiskars Freizeitbeil, Inklusive Klingen- und Transportschutz, Länge 23 cm, Antihaftbeschichtet, Hochwertige Stahl-Klinge/Glasfaserverstärkter Kunststoff-Stiel, Orange, X5-XXS, 1015617

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Beginner tip: Get yourself a pair of gloves, as they will protect you while chopping with the axe. And if you are not yet experienced with the axe, chop slower and more carefully. Furthermore, position your legs and feet so that they are not in the path of the axe if you slip.

The Wood for Carving

At the beginning, I didn't care what kind of wood I had. At least I could start carving.

But now I make sure that it is not, for example, a beech. I still have an unfinished spoon here that is made of beech wood. The wood of the beech is damn hard, and it is really exhausting.

Soft Wood

Take the best:

  • Lime wood
  • Maple wood
  • Pine wood
  • Chestnut wood
  • Poplar wood

These types of wood are all soft and carving is easier. Therefore, soft wood species are perfect for beginners.

You can recognize soft wood by the fact that the annual rings are far apart compared to hard wood. There, the annual rings are close together.

Hardwood

Carving hard wood is more strenuous. It is equally recommended for advanced carvers with calluses on their fingers.

This is suitable for:

  • Larch wood
  • Birchwood
  • Oak wood
  • Ash wood
  • Elm wood
  • Olive wood
  • Pear wood
  • Almond wood

Below the image you can see birchwood that I found in the forest. The chance of finding free birch or pine wood is quite high in our local forests.

But be careful: never fell a tree or harm living trees. Nature lovers do not do this, and it is punishable by law.

Birch wood
Birch wood

Youthful and fresh wood is better suited for carving. Therefore, make sure not to use 100-year-old wood that has also been dried for 20 years for the beginning.

If you can't find suitable wood, you can also order it.

It's even better if you know a forester or someone from a sawmill.

Then you will surely quickly come across good wood and already know in advance which trees will be felled.

Other Utensils

You still need the following materials:

A wooden block

This is ideal for working on the piece of wood at the beginning with an axe.

You need a surface where the axe can strike without damaging the blade.

Wooden block
Wooden block

Sandpaper

Get sandpaper from the hardware store or from Amazon, for example a hand sanding block or a sanding sponge.

You require it to smooth out the wood texture of your carvings later on.

Only then will your carving piece feel soft and supple.

Oil for Preserving

When your spoon or carving is finished, you must oil it well.

With this, you protect it from moisture.

I use olive oil from the supermarket for my spoons. This provides the advantage that there are no problems when I prepare food with the spoons.

If your carvings do not come into contact with food, then there is also the option to use special oil specifically for wood.

Carving a Spoon

Carving a spoon is easy, start as soon as you feel like it.

How does that work?

Many talented people on YouTube demonstrate this, so it's best to watch the video below.

The man in the video carves a wooden spoon without many words. Perfect for studying the techniques precisely.

But don't put pressure on yourself to make your first spoon look exactly like in the video. It usually won't.

Your handle can also be round. Or maybe your spoon bowl is smaller.

You must start!

I started carving because I really wanted to. At the very beginning, I didn't even have a carving knife or a peeling knife. Simple kitchen knives had to do the job.

But don't do that, it's really exhausting, and the knives are not suitable for carving.

Here you can see current results with carving knives:

self-carved wooden spoons
self-carved wooden spoons

So, have you now become interested in starting to carve?

What will you tackle first? A spoon? A figurine? A bowl?

Write it in the comments for other readers and let's exchange experiences!

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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